Prof. Nandita Batra
Ingl 4030 – 086
December 4th, 2008
Assignment VII – Research Paper
“Yeats, Joyce and the Irish Voice”
Some believe that the Irish literature seemed to be losing its voice in the late nineteenth century. Specifically after the Act of Union, when Ireland was incorporated to the United Kingdom, which brought the uneasy feeling or fear ofIreland losing its identity. This in part motivated the creation of the Celtic Revival or Irish Literary Revival based upon an awareness of Irish nationality that aimed at re-awakening the Irish national consciousness through its literature. The main inspirations for this literature were Irish life, its history and its legends. William Butler Yeats and James Joyce were amongst the prominent Irishwriters who were part of this movement. Although they desired the same thing: the creation of an imaginary Irish nation and race, Yeats and Joyce’s approaches were very different. Joyce refused to adopt the mystical view of the Irish folk tradition and instead as he himself put it he focuses on “the moral history of his country.”
It is argued that Joyce played a more artistic role in the Irishliterature by using technical innovations like symbolic parallels, extended monologues and stream of consciousness while Yeats brought the feeling of nationalism as a way of maintaining the Irish identity alive and he implemented mysticism in his recollection of folk-tales that dealt mainly with fairies. Such different techniques and visions have been an inspiration to compare these two writersand their take on the Irish literature.
Yeats admiration for Ireland’s Celticism, what he called their “natural magic” inspired him to compiled anthologies of Irish poems plus faery and folk tales. One of the works where this fascination with folklore and mythology it’s visible is The Celtic Twilight which he wrote in 1893. This book is basically a collection of prose that deals withmysticism and some symbolism. "I have therefore written down accurately and candidly much that I have heard and seen..." The stories that Yeats included in this books are transcriptions of narratives he heard from friends and some are from his own visionary experience. In fact, in the one called “A Teller of Tales” Yeats says that many of the tales were told to him by one Paddy Flynn and some othersby a Mayo woman.
The narratives in The Celtic Twilight are full of ghosts, spirits and faeries which are known from the Celtic mythology. The Celts were a group that lived in Ireland a long, long time ago. They spoke Gaelic, cherished nature and all that was living and believed that the spirit of those who died would continue it’s cycle unless they were troubled. This mythology is infused bya multitude of parallel realities, known as the “Otherworld”. It sometimes crossed with the ordinary world which created a door for the magical beings to enter. Yeats wanted to keep that alive through his writing. Let others know the Irish literature from a more traditional perspective. It is said that by making allusions to this kind of mythology Yeats wanted to separate himself from Britishwriters and have something for Ireland to enjoy. Interesting thing is Yeats is an Anglo-Irish writer, therefore he’s in an ambivalent position, in between English and Irish and even when this issue has being the center of criticism, it should be noted that Yeats chose Ireland and identified himself with it.
Yeats mentions in “Mortal Help” the god Cuchullan who is the most famous hero ofIrish myth and a powerful symbol for twentieth century Irish nationalists because of his warrior spirit that wouldn’t let him quit a fight. Now, in the Celtic religion the deities were reduced to the status of faeries when the Christianity spread across. In the story it is said that Cuchullan won Fand, who was a goddess, by helping her sister’s husband conquer a nation. So by helping others you...